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How quickly things can change.
For a decade, Indian Prime Minister Narendra Modi was denied a visa to the United States because of the way he handled street fighting between Hindus and Muslims in the state he once led. Fast forward to today, and the same man is being welcomed with open arms by corporate executives, Indian Americans and, most importantly, President Barack Obama.
After meeting with corporate executives like Satya Nadella of Microsoft and Indra Nooyi of PepsiCo, Modi will put on his trademark Nehru jacket on and prepare for what some are calling an Indian "concert" at Madison Square Garden on Saturday night. Thousands, including many Indian Americans, are expected to show up to hear Modi speak. The excitement stems from Modi's promise of better days for a country that has struggled with slowing growth and rampant inflation.
Obama hosts Modi for a private White House dinner over the weekend.
Economic and financial hopes pinned to Modi are seen by many Indians, especially within the business community, as responsible for the country's rising stock market; the Bombay Sensex is up by double digits this year.
In fact, little has changed in India since Modi took office in May, but there's hope that he will put pro-business policies in place that will ultimately improve India's economic situation. Indian Americans, many of whom are first-generation, largely credit Modi for helping to improve India's image thanks to his supposed zero tolerance for corruption, which plagues India.
M.R. Rangaswami, head of Indiaspora, an influential group of Indian-American leaders, said he's never before seen the current level of excitement around an Indian leader. "Very few leaders from India have come to the U.S. and have received this type of audience," he said.
Rangaswami noted that part of the excitement comes from hopes that Modi can strengthen India's relationship with the U.S., which has stagnated over the past few years.
Both India and the United States have reason to bolster ties between the two countries. Aside from trade—Modi is seen as a potential liberalizer of India's international trade and foreign investment rules—the U.S. is likely to try to tap India as a global ally, especially in the war on terror, and as an Asian counterbalance to China.
"If the U.S. wants a reset with India, Modi is the right person to be reaching out to," said Jonah Blank, senior political analyst at Rand Corp.
Many believe Obama this weekend will directly communicate his interest in making India a closer ally. "Expect some further improvements in relations with the U.S., especially on mutual security-related issues, like commercial piracy and terrorism on trade routes in the Indian Ocean," said John Krey, international investment analyst at S&P Investment Advisory Services.
Krey cautioned, however, that market watchers shouldn't assume that talks between Modi and Obama will all go smoothly, especially when it comes to support for U.S.-led military action against radical Sunni Arab terrorists in the Middle East. Modi is Hindu, and his Bharatiya Janata Party has historic roots in Hindu nationalism.
"[Do] not expect Modi to give Obama carte blanche support for the allied air assault against positions in Syria and Iraq…Modi needs to appear neutral, since Muslims comprise roughly 13.4 percent of the population (2001 census). "